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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Channels

This is part 4 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction. Part 2 “The Product” is here, part 3 “Your Audiences” is here.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know The Channels

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Ustream, blogs, forums and all of the other communities in social media each have a different feel, and as such have different rules and therefore different results should be expected.  I’m going to go on record as saying that, in my opinion, trying to target all areas is a big mistake unless you have an incredibly well resourced team.  For most of the Fortune 500 companies that I work with we target a handful of channels based upon the brand needs and expectations…I don’t think there is such a thing as a cookie cutter social media program.  Why?  Because the need of every client is different (remember that part I wrote about knowing your customer?)  That said, there are a few basics that should be covered, but once you have established those you’ll want to match specific needs with specific communities.  If you try to be all things to all people you’re going to get spread too thin.

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My New Role In Social Media Marketing and Strategy

logo-v1Those of you that have been following my adventures for a while know that I put my heart, soul and mind into social media.  Since writing my own blogging platform a decade ago (the billion dollar idea that I never capitalized on…) to my almost-obsessive fascination with brand interaction on channels like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I am constantly observing and strategizing ways to make the interaction and engagement between companies and customers better through social media. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years consulting businesses of all types and sizes regarding their engagement (or lack thereof) within these online communities.  From Fortune 100 companies that distribute hardware all around the world to non-profit agencies that are doing their best to make a difference in the world, I have worked with groups to lend insight, support, ideas and action to social media programs. Given all of that, I’m quite pleased to announce that I have taken a new role within the industry.

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My New Virtual Home

Media TempleLate last night I switched my primary domain, MattSingley.com, to a new host after receiving a lot of messages yesterday that my web site was displaying “Service Is Unavailable”.  Although I get traffic spikes from time to time, this blog doesn’t pull so much traffic that it should shut down with modest increases, even after mentions by the L.A. Times and Mashable.  Given that, I have selected Media Temple as my new host to see how things go.  I’ve been impressed with other sites’ stability that are hosted there, I love the fact that they talk about easy scalability and recognize that spikes in traffic do happen, and I’m particularly impressed with their Twitter team. It sounds like a winning combination to me!

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6 Best Corporate Blogging Practices

I recently wrote a paper for a client called “Best Corporate Blogging Practices” as they are about to launch their first company blog.  There were more than a few questions about what do do and what to avoid when blogging for their organization, so I want to share my thoughts with you.

Corporate Blogging

Corporate Blogging

This short guide should serve as a set of suggestions and ideas for corporate blogging.  Please do not think that these are hard and fast rules, because your blogging style should be unique to your organization.  As you get a little farther down the blogging road, you will naturally develop a voice and style that is true to your company, and that is what will keep people coming back for more.

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Mobilize Your Blog Content With Mippin

Mobile Blog Viewing With Mippin

Mobile Blog Viewing With Mippin

The ability for all of my readers to see my posts in the method of their choosing is very important to me.  Although the majority of my traffic comes from desktop and laptop computers, I’m starting to see an increase in visits from mobile browsers.  I’ve tried different plug-ins from time to time that are supposed to redirect to a mobile friendly page, but for the most part they have been too watered down.  With 3G and other high speed networks, I’m not sure that text-only is the way to go. I think I’ve found a service that finally balances mobile speed with aesthetics.  Enter Mippin.

Based in The UK, Mippin does an amazing job of transforming my site from bells and whistles to mobile friendly.  From my POV, the ease with which this is done makes it a bit of a no-brainer.  They will grab my feed and transform it for free into a fully functional web site that is mobile browser friendly.  If you want to see what this site looks like, browse on your mobile phone or look at this page in your browser.

If you run your site on WordPress, they have sweetened the deal even further.  They have created a WordPress Plugin that you upload to your wp-content/plugins folder, activate and that’s it.  I have tested this on a few different phones and it redirects without problems.  Of course the question that you have to ask yourself is, do you want to redirect?  The plugin actually steers your audience to the Mippin site, away from yours.  Personally I’m okay with this, but I know some people that are not.  It’s a personal choice.

If you run a blog, you need to try this out, it’s fabulous.  For more info check out their blog, or follow them on Twitter.

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New Vlog

I have a new vlog up on the front page of MattSingley.com , go check it out.  You can leave comments here, because the vlog section of my website seems to have blown up a bit.  It’s probably the iPhone’s fault.

UPDATE: I have restored the video section, head over to the vlog to check things out.  I added some functionality also.  Per a few requests I have created embed code at the bottom of each post so you can put the videos up on your site or blog if you wish.

iPhone 3G Full Review

This is going to be a ridiculously long post so I am putting headers in bold so that you can find any area of interest quickly.  I am going to give a full review of the iPhone 3G after a week of ownership and use in these categories: intro, roll out strategy,hardware,software,outro (the bottom line). I am now going to turn on Bajofondo, take a sip of the Macallen 12 year and give you my unabridged thoughts about this fabulous new piece of electronic pimpery we call the iPhone 3G.

|  Intro  |

I occasionally receive messages from people asking me why I hate Apple, why I slam the Mac, why I refuse to drink the Kool Aid.  Let me be clear: I don’t hate any of these things.  I have a tendency to like what is best for my uses no matter who makes them.  I’m not very brand loyal, I’m usability and financially loyal. Most of the recent “why do you hate Apple” comments come because of my post about iPod versus Zune.  I choose Zune.  It makes the most sense.  It really does.

However, I like much of what Apple does, but most of their products (in my opinion) are scaled toward entertainment, not common business practices.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I wrote my first Apple application before most of you even knew what Apple was (1982 to be exact) and I realize that is before a good percentage of my readers were even born!  My first home computer was an Apple, and I used them almost exclusively when I was a graphic designer in the early 90s. So no, I don’t hate Apple.  That said, the iPhone 3G is my first Apple purchase is well over a decade.

|  Roll Out Strategy  |

Certainly Apple was prepared for the massive demand of the second generation iPhone…right? I mean, with the incredible response to the first gen, they had to know that hundreds of thousands of people wanted a piece of the new digital candy, even died-in-the-wool PC users like myself.  They had to be prepared for this, right?

Wrong.

iTunes (the only way to activate the phone, and the way to upgrade software v1.0 to 2.0) crashed harder than a new Madonna movie on opening day. Twitter lit up with talk about iBricks and how frustrated people were.  Rightfully so!  I’m actually surprised that the Apple servers crashed as hard as they did since this is their single point of failure for phone activation.  Seriously, did they not prepare for this?  You had to know it was coming, Mr. Jobs.  Be a Boyscout, be prepared.

That is one of the reasons that I waited for several days before picking up my iPhone.  Let’s let the bugs get worked out.  Sure enough, iTunes seemed to be a little more stable just 24 hours later, good news for the new phone owners (old as well) since this is the only way to activate your phone.  Oh wait, I already mentioned that.  Yeah, I’m not a big fan of in-store activation.  Let’s talk about the lines now.

I can kind of (but not fully) understand lines on opening day.  Dark Knight has lines, iPhone has lines.  It’s part of the hype and the fun.  However, I do not understand lines four full days later.  Another note to Mr. Jobs: the actual process of selling and activating a phone is pretty simple.  Two words, sir: temporary labor.  Seriously, I waited for a full 110 minutes in line before I could buy your phone.  The total time for purchase (including the trip to AT&T that I had to take, and including the return trip to your store to fix the brand new broken phone) was six hours.  Just a half a year earlier I somehow managed to buy a pretty nice car, cradle to grave in the process, in three hours.  My car costs 200x what the phone costs and I have to be licensed to use it, yet it took me half the time to acquire it.  That’s a big word up to Car Max, a big boo to Apple.

Oh, one last free piece of marketing advice for Mr. Jobs and all of the managers of the various stores: it wouldn’t take a lot to talk to the managers from Starbucks and California Pizza Kitchen (or other mall eateries) to get them to walk the line for orders.  The other business is happy, your customers that are withering in line are happy, everybody wins.  I understand you did this on Friday at the store I went to.  Good move.  Now repeat it every day that you choose not to have temporary help, forcing people to stand in line for hours.  Thank you.

Finally, after 110 minutes of angry Twitters I was at the front of the line.  As the Apple employee walked toward me in slow motion, Feist music slowly wafted out of nowhere, and I floated toward the doors as he said, “Hi, I’m Evan, welcome to Apple.  Are you ready for your new iPhone?”

The rest of the process was fairly simply and without complication.  It took about 30 minutes total to do everything after I told him I wanted an 8GB phone.  He grabbed one, unboxed it and signed me up.  I love the fact that he checked me out using a Symbol PocketPC.  Yes, that is a Windows based device.  Don’t think for a second I didn’t notice and give him the appropriate amount of crap about it, because I did.  I asked if the three of us (him, me and the PocketPC) could take a picture together.  He said no, it wasn’t allowed.  No surprise there, but I thought I would ask.  So the checkout process went well, and 30 minutes later I was on my way out the door with my new iPhone!

Before moving on to the next section, somebody asked me if the six hour ordeal that I endured (I’m not going to talk about the return trip to the store or the necessary trip to AT&T) was worth it.  “After all”, they reasoned, “it was a horrible experience but now you have an iPhone!”  I guess my feeling can best be described in a parable.

Let’s say you go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for dinner.  You have one of the best steaks that you have ever had!  They pour you a Shiraz that curls your toes with its peppery goodness.  A dessert of Baked Alaska finishes you off in a way you didn’t even know was possible.  Overall, the best meal of your life.  Then let’s say that as the waiter is bringing you the check…just as he slips the little leather booklet onto your table and you reach for it…he flat out punches you in the face.  Hard.  Right in the nose.  Blood spurts everywhere and you realize that this wanna be actor broke your nose.  What the heck is going on?

This is part of the experience.  The fact that you got jacked in the face shouldn’t take away from the fact that you just ate an insanely good meal…should it?  Or would you consider all events surrounding the evening to be the sum total of the individual parts, even that really awesome steak?  Moving on to hardware…

|  Hardware  |

If you want the tech specs of the iPhone 3G head on over to the Apple site. I’m just going to give you a summary and a gut reaction.  The phone just could not be sexier.  People at my work in Portland used to make fun of me for referring to different computer things as “sexy”, but this takes the cake. It’s slim, it’s gorgeous, it’s everything I want in a piece of hardware.  The screen is brilliantly beautiful and bright, although I have turned the brightness way, way down to save on battery power.  Nice transition, let’s talk about that for a bit.

The battery is understandably underpowered.  Between vibrate, 3G and a dazzling screen there isn’t much room for anything else when it comes to electricity.  Rumor has it that after a few charges the battery life gets better, but I think a more accurate thing to say is that after several tweaks, the battery life gets better.  With the screen brightness at almost the lowest setting and with my new car charger I can make it through the day.  I also had to turn off the 3G feature because this is a power drain.  Nice transition, let’s talk about that for a bit.

I can tell you that I’m pretty disappointed in 3G on the iPhone. I’m no stranger to 3G, my HTC 8525 sported it well. I’ve noticed two things with the iPhone 3G when it is on.  First, the battery gets drained pretty quickly.  Second, making a call is painful.  Honestly, and I’m not sure why this makes a big difference, but I can hardly keep a call connected when 3G is enabled.  What’s more, the coverage in my neck of the woods is terrible.  I have 1 or 2 bars most of the time.  When I turn it off I go up to 3 or 4 bars.  Ugh.

As far as feel goes, that is, the ability to easily navigate, there is nothing slicker than the iPhone 3G.  The one-button front and touch screen is incredible.  Seriously, just stunningly amazing.  It makes moving around the phone, from app to app, so easy.  I love this.  One-handed navigation in my car (~while at a stop light of course) is super easy, and I can thumb around to wherever I want to go.

I’m not sure if this next piece of commentary belongs in hardware or software, so we’ll just move into the software review after a convo about the keyboard.

The keyboard.  Wow.  This is my biggest gripe with the iPhone.  I’ve talked to many, many people that *like* the keyboard on the iPhone.  After a little pressing, most fall into one of three categories.  1) Only ever had a phone where you had to press the number multiple times to type (like a Razr) 2) Had the 1st Gen iPhone and have been beaten into submission so they say they like it but I don’t really believe them 3) Don’t really give a hoot about the keyboard because they barely use it, and only for web browsing.  I’m in category #4 folks, and that is this: I use my phone heavily for email and texting.  Heavily.  Over a thousand text messages a month, countless hundreds (thousands?) of emails a month replied to via my phone.  I need to type, it’s part of the business process.

People keep saying to me, “trust me, it gets easier”.  My reply so far has been “my fingers aren’t getting any smaller, and the keyboard isn’t getting any bigger”.

Now, when you flip the phone sideways during web viewing (on Safari…please let me install Firefox…please…) everything on the screen including the keyboard orients to a landscape view.  The keyboard gets bigger and is almost usable for typing.  Not entirely usable because it’s not tactile, but almost.  Close enough.  If it could do this for email and texting I would be so happy…but so far it doesn’t.  Perhaps I’m ignorant, and if you are less than ignorant, please point me to a hack that lets me type everything in landscape.  Please, for the love of all that is good, tell me how to do that because I don’t know.

|  Software  |

Now we get to the sweet spot of the iPhone.  Some of the software on this little glistening beauty is incredible.  From “Slide To Unlock” to the daily weather, it almost brings a tear to my eye it’s so beautiful.  The Stocks app is pretty silly (download the Bloomberg app, so much better, and free), but most apps are quite useful. As I’m new to the iPhone, allow me to bask in the wonder of it all, I know that many of you have been using the 1st gen for a bit, but allow me to bask.

It’s stunning.

Even the software of the phone is superior to anything that I have used.  The visual voice mail is excellent, so much so that I have actually disregarded SpinVox for now (don’t hate me SpinVox, I still love you).  Actually, I would probably still use SpinVox but I can’t figure out how to apply it to the iPhone.  Maybe WhatleyDude knows.

The “Settings” tab allows me to change some things, but not all.  As a PC user I appreciate the ability to change all kinds of junk around, to modify whatever I want to my needs.  Before you go on and on in the comments about viruses and junk, I haven’t had a virus on any of my computers is years.  YEARS!  So please don’t start up with “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” crap because I won’t be baited into it.  </rant>

Anyway, about the settings…fairly useful, but not completely giving me control.  It’s okay though, I’m fine with this.  My favorite silly app is “Phone Saber”.  Ha ha ha!  I have a light saber on my phone and I’m going to attack you with it!  Oh, I love it.  Seriously, I do.

The two best applications of all for the iPhone 3g?  Not even made by Apple, but that’s okay, they work marvelously on this phone.  The runner up is…Twitterific!  A beautiful Twitter client, I love how it is laid out on the iPhone.  I love how I can differentiate by color reply to @mattsingley and direct messages to @mattsingley.  Brilliant!  So, so user friendly.  Replying is a snap (save the ridiculous portrait keyboard) and if Twitter is up, Twitterific is up!  I’ve found myself using this more than the actually twitter.com site.

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The winner of the very best iPhone application goes to…YouVersion!

My friends over at LifeChurch put this together and they have absolutely hit it out of the park. I have to confess something to you…I got pretty lazy with my daily Bible reading habit.  Once I installed the YouVersion app I actually got back on track because it has a button that says “Daily Reading”, and it updates automatically.  So now even lazy guys like me can be just one click away from two OT and one NT chapter.  Incredibly useful.  I love this app, go download it now!

I desperately want to leave you on this very positive note, but I have to point out a pretty major problem that I’ve found.  When I try to Sync with Outlook (Apple says there should be no problems), it syncs everything *except* calendar events that I put into my iPhone.  So if I’m meeting with somebody and they say, “hey, let’s get together Wednesday” and I put it into my phone it will not move into Outlook.  I’ve tried everything I can think of, including re installation of software.  Ugh. Outlook to iPhone is fine, but not the other way around.  Totally unacceptable.

|  Outro  |

I am going out of my way to find reasons to love the iPhone because it’s just incredibly innovative and cool.  I want so desperately to love it!  Right now I have a switch inside my head and it has just two settings.  The first is “love the iPhone 3G” and the second is “hate the iPhone 3G”.

The GUI is incredible.  I love it.  It makes it so easy to cruise between apps, check voice mail, make phone calls, read my Bible.  I love it!

As far as a business machine goes, the iPhone blows.  My productivity has come to a grinding halt as I am not able to reply to emails very easily except for short sentences.

The final judgment…

I’m keeping the iPhone, but I may have to pull an uber-geek move and carry two phones.  One for being cool and the envy of all around me (the iPhone), one for getting things done (my HTC 8525, perhaps even an upgrade to the HTC Flip).

“Wow, very lukewarm”, you say, “so what do I do?”

Thanks for asking.  I think the iPhone is beautiful and brilliant if you don’t need to do business on it.  I think for most people, the iPhone is the best thing on the market.  Although I have experienced moments of mind-numbing frustration, I’m glad I got mine.  That, and I am working on apps and communities that iPhone users will use, so I want to see up close and personal what they will see.

If you are a heavy business user, if you rely and fast thumb typing for emails and you need to view docs, etc, you should probably stick with your Windows Mobile device or Crackberry.

Bottom line: the iPhone 3G is absolutely brilliant!  I love it!  Just not good for business folks.

I would love to hear your feedback, let me know what you think of your iPhone 3G!

iPhone 3G

My “I’ve had it for a week” review of the iPhone 3G will get posted here sometime soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this little one minute video diddy.

Oversharing and Attention-Blogging Part 2

Last week I discussed a series of articles that I read that dealt with the subject of blogging, and how much detail is too much. Today I want to look into the motivation behind attention-blogging, that phenomenon of sharing way too much with the world about your personal life.

Interestingly, after I wrote that piece last week I got several emails, text messages and direct messages on Twitter asking if "you are talking about me".  My truthful answer to every one of those inquiries was "no".  As I started to consider the need for attention via blogging (macro blogging like TypePad or micro blogging like Twitter), no one person came to mind.  I really thought about the concept in general, so this is not aimed at anybody in particular.

I find it curious that people will share so much of their lives with the world.  Now, I can already feel the eye rolls from many of you as I have shared a great detail about my life over the last several years via blogging.  I’m not talking about sharing personal information, I’m talking about sharing information that is well beyond appropriate measure.  I don’t want to hear about when you had diarrhea, or when your monthly cycle is starting and how horrible that is, or the intimate details of your horrible fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse.  Why do people share these things?

As I look back over my life I think about the kinds of folks that shared this information with everybody in earshot before Twitter allowed us to broadcast it, or before blogging allowed interactive commentary on going to the bathroom.  When I consider these types of people I realize that the attention-bloggers these days probably fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Horribly insecure– I think this is the most likely scenario about 75% of the time.  Attention blogging, deep down, is a way of getting noticed when the author is feeling like they don’t really matter to anybody.  In high school and college this manifested itself in different ways publicly, but they were usually micro incidents because you had to get attention face to face.  With the advent of blogging, now attention can be sought globally with the click of a mouse.
  2. Angry– angry at life, angry at the world.  With an attitude like, "hey, I’ve been screwed over so many times I really don’t care, so I’m going to blast everything and everybody around me", this kind of attention-blogging is usually aimed at another person, and the author isn’t afraid to use names.
  3. Depressed– There is a fine line between this category and the first one, they are likely linked together.  This one makes me sad.  I’ve read many posts where I could almost feel the depression behind the words.  When over sharing is used in this manner, it’s a bit of a cry for help. I’m most likely to engage this person in comments and emails, participating in their lives via our new digital world.  I engage not to chastise the over sharing, but to explore life with them.
  4. Ego strokers– arguably this could fall into the first category as well, but the insecurity is pretty well pushed down below the surface, so I suppose this warrants its own category.  How many comments will I get? How many page views will I generate with this post? Will I get linked to by another blogger?  These are questions that fuel the content of this type of over sharing.  I’ve actually talked to bloggers who have wondered out loud that if they share a certain level of inappropriate information, will their stats jump up? For this type, it’s all about the numbers…the psuedo-friends…that cause the over sharing
  5. Sociopaths– there are some bloggers that I have read (no longer) that simply don’t understand cultural norms.  I’m happy to report that I don’t think I personally know anybody that fits this category.  But they are out there.  Sociopaths have been a part of our society for as long as we have kept record of history, but now they have a voice that can spread around the globe at the speed of light.  When I accidentally stumble across this type of blog, I simply leave and never go back.

There are probably more than five categories that would encompass the over sharing blogger, but those are the first that come to mind mind.  Before you think me a stone-thrower, let me tell you this…

I have been affected and ultimately motivated to write a post by all of these elements at some point or another.

Well, with the exception of the sociopathic one (although I’m sure a couple of my regular readers would argue that point with me).   So you see, I’m not beyond the reach of these very real human emotions.  I do take exception, however, with the people that are primarily motivated by them and use their blog or Twitter as an outlet. 

So what are you to do when you come across an oversharer?  First, have a bit of tolerance.  Everybody slips up now and again, so if this is an exception as opposed to a rule, just be patient.  Chances are, after a little outburst, the author is more embarrassed about writing that than you think.  Second, if you actually know an oversharer personally, it’s probably a good idea to approach them out of love and let them know that the world is tired of hearing about their bathroom habits. 

If I have been a reader/follower of somebody for a while and notice a pattern of oversharing, I do what they fear the very most: I simply turn them off.  I don’t give notice, I don’t send a series of emails explaining my departure.  I simply go away.  That’s one less tick on the analytics counter, and believe me…they notice the drop in their stats and it is a stronger message than 100 strongly worded letters.

I have thoughts about the "cure" for blog over sharing, but I think I will let them stay in my head as opposed to writing them down here.  The summary of these thoughts however center around a real relationship with Christ.  When He is the center of our lives…the true center, not just the expressed center…then it’s likely the need for over sharing will go away.  Anger disapates, ego stroking minimizes and our security is found in Him.  Not overnight, but as the relationship strengthens we find our strength in Him.  And that, my friends, is a good thing.